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The Blessing of the Dropped Ball


I’ll admit it. I suffer from a little bit of SWS (Super Woman Syndrome). OK, maybe a lot.  I entered adulthood in the ‘you can have it all’ era and, although I’ve read plenty of self-help books and dedicate myself (weekly) to the idea of balance, I can’t seem to exorcise it.

Is it so bad that I take pride in doing it all – and doing it well? For me there’s always time do one more thing, take on one more committee, agree to one more meeting. In the process I know I put myself (and those closest to me) under extraordinary stress. But it’s worth it when it all comes together in the end.

Until last week. I won’t bore you with the details. Let’s just say that I miscalculated on a massive scale what I could pull off… and the balls started dropping. I was mortified and waited for the backlash to begin. But it didn’t.

  • Nobody beat me up
  • Nobody criticized
  • Nobody wagged their fingers at me

Nothing bad happened. In fact, some very good things happened instead. Colleagues stepped up to take on a little more. Committee members were happy to do some of the things I normally did. Someone actually thanked me for the chance to do a task that I had been ‘protecting’ her from in the past.

As those around me stepped up so quickly and generously, I found myself wondering about the effect of my SWS on my colleagues, clients, and community members. And here’s what I realized: I’m not doing anyone any favors by doing it all.  Quite the opposite in fact. 

Every time I say ‘I’ll do that,’ I rob someone else of the chance to become engaged, grow, excel, discover what they can do, and be recognized for it. What I thought was selfless turns out to be pretty selfish instead.

Tennis in the Rain

My experience of dropping the ball let me:

  • See what others are capable of… and it’s a lot more than they get to do when I’m keeping all of the balls in play.
  • Connect with people in a more authentic way
  • Reduce my own fear of failure and the stress that I didn’t even know I was carrying around.

As leaders, we don’t serve others by trying to do it all perfectly. Our imperfection gives others a chance to contribute and shine. It also gives them permission to make mistakes too.

Have you ever dropped the ball and experienced a blessing?

As an experiment, what could you drop… just to see what happens?

Please share your experiences because a lot of SWS and SMS (the male version of the disorder) sufferers could benefit from your blessing lessons!

Image by ingridtaylar


  1. Such a fine line between having it all and controlling it all. This post is beautifully written and so encouraging. Thanks for sharing your experience. It’s a great example to those of us who struggle with balance.

    • Thank you, Molly. And I love your comment about the fine line between having it all and controlling it all. You are so right. Here’s to at least an occasional experience of balance!

  2. Beautifully written and so true. Thanks Julie for helping us remember that we don’t have to “do it all”! Love the lessons learned.

    • Thanks, Katie! And I enjoyed spending the day with you.

  3. OK, so who am I to talk about SWS…I first read this at 5amish and have been “noodling” it ever since. It’s interesting that we consider “dropping the ball” a negative thing, when you are right Julie it turned out to be one of life’s disguised blessings. I say let’s be intentional in our ball dropiing. Consider what’s most important to you. Really. Is it family? Your health? Being of service to others? Drop a ball that doesn’t line up with what matters most. Make a conscious choice without any second guessing and be open to the possibilities.

    • You’re so right. No reason to be haphazard about this. Consciously choosing which balls to drop based upon what matters most makes such sense. It’s with ‘without any second guessing’ part that I know will be my personal challenge. Thanks so much, Karen, for sharing your wisdom.


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